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Exploited Workers Awarded Millions of Dollars in California Overtime and Other Labor Law Violations

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Santa Rosa, CACalifornia Labor Commissioner Julie Su has been very busy lately, investigating California labor law violations and handing out California overtime fines. Forty-seven restaurant workers and 143 warehouse employees are owed a considerable amount of overtime pay.

“California is more protective of its workers than any other state in the union,” says California employment attorney Todd Schneider. “People should be protected from working long hours and from employers who either think they aren’t going to get caught or they don’t understand the California overtime laws.” Clearly, two restaurant employers in Ukiah disregarded the California labor employment law.

Co-owners of Walter Café and Ruen Tong Thai Cuisine were held liable both individually and jointly for violating the California labor code over a three-year period and have been fined $1.9 million for wage theft violations.

From June 2010 through June 2013, Yaowapha Ritdet and Steve Walter made their employees work at least 11.5 hours every day, six or seven days a week without meal breaks. They were not paid overtime as required by law, nor were they even paid minimum wage. Shame on Ritdet and Walter - these conditions are akin to slave labor in a third world country.

Wait, it gets worse! Some of the restaurant workers were forced to sign time cards containing falsified information. The time cards reflected that they had only worked between five and six hours each day while others were paid in cash with no information on the total hours worked, rate of pay or deductions provided, according to The Labor Commissioner’s Office, which is also known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

The California Labor Commissioner’s office collaborated with the US Department of Labor on this investigation. “Wage theft is a very serious problem,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). “Not only does it affect workers who have been cheated out of hard-earned pay, but the vast majority of business owners who treat their employees respectfully get undercut by this unfair and illegal practice.”

The 47 workers are due $1,086,435.79 in unpaid minimum wage, $376,640.31 in unpaid overtime and $153,582.41 for no meal period premiums. As well, a total of $189,250 as civil penalties were assessed for violating the minimum wage and California overtime laws, and for not providing workers the required wage statements. The second case ended with an employer paying overtime compensation to 60 current and 83 former employees.

Commissioner Su investigated the furniture distributor Coppel Corporation and its Calexico warehouse after a complaint was filed with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). The inspection reviewed payroll and employee time cards, and discovered that employees often worked two or three hours of overtime each week but were paid straight time instead of overtime. The employer cooperated with the investigation and hired a law firm to conduct an audit that wound up with the company owing $88,109 in overtime wages to 60 current employees and an additional $33,613 to 83 former employees.

Are you owed overtime? If so, take this advice from attorney Todd Schneider. Keep track of the hours you work and let your employer know if you are owed overtime. If your employer refuses to pay, contact the California Labor Commissioner’s office and/or an employment lawyer. And remember to stand up for your rights.


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